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this love left a permanent mark

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Data did all of his own maintenance. At least, that's what Geordi assumed. He'd never asked, at first because it seemed too personal, and then later because his mother had always told him never to question the amount of time a woman spent in the bathroom, and he thought it was kind of the same thing.

He'd watched him at work a few times -- who wouldn't have been fascinated? Geordi's partner was sentient and Geordi never thought of him as less than human, but at the same time he was a marvelous machine, and Geordi loved machines. Geordi would never have asked to open Data up and play around inside him, but he enjoyed the glimpses. It seemed intimate, somehow. He knew that Data trusted him to look and not touch.

They'd been together for almost three months when Geordi rang Data's door, a few minutes early for their scheduled date. He'd ended his shift a little early, still tired from yesterday's excitement that had involved extensive rewiring in order to prevent half the ship from dying. He'd worked through the night, stealing only a couple hours sleep before his normal workday, so he felt he'd earned it. He was still tired, but excited about their date. The newness hadn't worn off their romantic entanglement yet, and Geordi, inexperienced though he was, wasn't sure it ever would. Even when they had been only friends ("Only?" Data would say, giving him that look, and Geordi wasn't sure if it was great or terrifying that he was in Geordi's head already), Data's stories had been endlessly interesting to him. They weren't planning much, just to go down to Ten Forward and play a few games of chess, speak with their friends, nothing out of the ordinary, except that Geordi would be holding Data's hand whenever he found the opportunity.

Data answered immediately, saying, "Come in, Geordi." Maybe Geordi was predictable, but he didn't mind. Anyone with a brain that worked as fast as his would find most people predictable, but Data wasn't bored by Geordi, and that made Geordi happy.

When the door opened and Geordi stepped in, he glanced around Data's quarters to see if there'd been any recent changes. Data loved to talk about his new paintings or a rearranged living room. He always had a number of rationalizations for any change. Instead of noticing anything, Geordi's eyes caught on Data, who was seated on one of his couches with his back to Geordi. He was shirtless, with a panel missing at the small of his back. He'd placed the missing piece on the couch next to him, an incongruous swathe of skin against the dark fabric.

Geordi coughed. "I can come back if you're not ready?" he said uncertainly. He'd seen Data doing maintenance plenty of times, but he didn't want to presume. Perhaps Data had only let him in because it was more polite than making him stand in the corridor.

"No, please don't go," Data said, glancing at Geordi over his shoulder and giving him a smile. "I was hoping you'd be able to assist me. I can't quite reach the components I need to update."

"Of course," Geordi said without hesitation, although the idea made him a little nervous. It had been compelling watching Data make his own updates, but the intimacy involved in touching Data's parts himself -- it was like Data had asked him to sew up a wound.

"Thank you," Data said. "It's rare that I have to make changes to this part of my circuitry. Usually I am able to make do with a mirror and some specialized tools. I thought this would be simpler."

"Well, I don't know about that," Geordi said with a laugh, but he crossed the room and sat down behind Data, resting a tentative hand on Data's bare shoulder. His skin was just as soft as human skin, although not as warm. Geordi should be used to the pleasure of touching him by now, but it still made his heart race a little bit.

"Mm," Data said to acknowledge the touch. "I have the spare part right here," he said, lifting his hand to display the electronic components there. Now, once you've removed the existing piece, I will not have feeling in my lower back, but I'll be able to tell when it's replaced correctly because sensation will return. When you're ready."

He handed Geordi the part and turned his head back to face the wall, utterly trusting. Geordi slid a finger down Data's spine and then carefully began to detach the circuit board from the rest. It was pretty standard work, for all that he was performing it on his boyfriend. Geordi tried to be gentle, his dark fingers incongruous in the mess of components, surrounded by pale skin. Data waited patiently, not even twitching when Geordi freed the piece from his circuitry.

Geordi set the component down and paused. He rested his palm flat against Data's back, next to the open panel. At this moment, because of his actions, Data had no feeling at all in this part of his body. Geordi sighed. He shifted his hand up, and he could tell when he reached a part of Data's body under his control, because Data leaned into his touch. Geordi leaned forward and pressed a kiss into Data's shoulder, and then he picked up the new piece.

Installing it only took a moment. Once it was done, Data said, "Thank you. That feels much better."

"It's so much easier to do this when I don't have to run my own maintenance queries afterwards," Geordi said, and then he paused, suddenly worried that Data would take that the wrong way. He didn't think of Data like any other electronic device he'd ever fixed -- not at all. It was just what he'd thought of. He was pretty sure he could run network pings in his sleep after the night he'd had. His fingers danced in the code in the air, in fact, just to prove it to himself.

"I imagine so," Data said. "My own sensors likely work much faster than those queries, as well."

Of course Data wasn't offended. He accepted and dealt with his android status in a much more graceful way than Geordi thought he'd be able to in his place. He considered himself a person no matter what, even if he was full of circuitry. After all, what human didn't need maintenance of their own?

Geordi put the panel back in place on Data's back, and Data rose and stretched fluidly. Geordi admired the muscles in his back. Then Data put his shirt back on and turned to Geordi.

"Shall we go?" he asked, and Geordi nodded. That night, laughing with friends in the bar, he rested his hand on the small of Data's back, feeling warm.